The smearing of Obama has been fascinating. The ultimate insult has been leveled at him- that he is a ‘secret’ Muslim. Even Jeremiah Wright could not upgrade Obama’s image from being Muslim to merely being a crazy, angry, black man.
As American Muslims, my children can’t understand the connection between a burning American flag, grenades and ‘Muslim clothes’ in the New Yorker cartoon, nor why Obama is insulted at being called Muslim. No, my children and I did not swim here from ‘over there’; we were actually born and raised in the good ol’ US of A, and we feel integrated and appreciated by peers, and neighbours.
Islamophobia has peaked. In the American mind, Muslim = evil = terrorist = traitor. But nothing could be further from the truth.
I know that my fellow Americans are confused about the disconnect between what I (and all mainstream Muslims) believe and what Al-Quaida does.
Allow me to explain the difference:
As Muslims, we believe that God is One, and that He created Man as a thinking, intelligent being with free will. Every person has their own customized obstacle course to run on earth, and each of us will be judged based on performance and level of difficulty. The ‘devil’ lurks around every corner to encourage us down the path of poor choices, but God sent a series of messengers to advise good choices, presented in a rational, manner to encourage us to comply willingly. He created in us the ability to make decisions and accept the consequences. We believe in the equality of all human beings, regardless of sex, race or wealth. Acquiring knowledge, working hard and helping the less fortunate are forms of worship that God especially wants us to engage in. Fighting is only allowed in self-defence. No life should be wasted, not our own lives, those of other human beings or of any plants or animals.
These ideas are clearly depicted in the Quran, and we believe that the Quran is the literal word of God, preserved to eternity, but Al-Quaida disagrees with the mainstream on this point.
Al-Quaida and other radicals believe in an edited version of the Koran in which over 100 verses that call to peace, non-violence and tolerance are ignored. There is no solid basis for this practice, but if I were to argue with them, they would answer that one needs to be a scholarly cleric to understand, who do I think I am to question the ideas of such learned scholars, women have half a brain anyway, and ultimately that my faith is weak and I am a coward for not sacrificing my life to Islam.
One of the tenets of Islam is that God wants us to think, and that simply by thinking and studying the world around us, we will ‘revert’ to a firm and unshakeable belief in God. Throughout the Quran, God declares that “this Book is for people who think” and that “scholars are the closest to God”. I believe He takes real pleasure in watching us search and study.
The radical, self-declared Imams know that thinking people can destroy them. They encourage reading of the Quran, but discourage studying it. In its original classical Arabic form, the Quran can not be understood by >90% of the Muslims in the world, but radical clerics forbid translations and ‘foreign’ interpretations, preferring to stress their own select explanations and ideas to their ignorant flocks. Condemning the education of women, critical thinking and inter-religious dialogue are obvious extensions of their attempts to control the minds of the masses.
99% of Muslims have much more in common with average Americans than with this radical Muslim sect. The world needs Muslims to discredit the convoluted rationale of radicals and to make it impossible for them to brainwash new recruits. We need to make sure that our young Muslims understand the unedited Quran, so they can see for themselves that Al-Quaida has no basis. I believe that if we could be made real partners in this war against terror, we can win the fight. By making ‘Muslim’ synonomous with ‘evil’ we are helping the radicals. My children will feel marginalized, mistrusted and eventually isolated, and will be ready targets, ripe for recruitment to Al-Quaida’s edited Quran. If we can not change the constant, hurtful rhetoric against Islam and Muslims, we may find our youth accepting radical and violent ideas in order to assuage hurt pride and to compensate for what will have been a great injustice.
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